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Legislation raises human rights concerns

16 December 2004

Prisoner compo legislation raises human rights concerns

The Prisoners and Victims Claims Bill has the potential to discriminate and may breach New Zealand's international human rights commitments, the Human Rights Commission said today.

The Bill restricts prisoners' access to monetary compensation for mistreatment and gives prisoners' victims the ability to claim on any compensation received.

Under New Zealand's international human rights commitments, in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the State is responsible for ensuring that inmates are treated with humanity and dignity and that an effective remedy is available when violations of these rights occur.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said today that the focus should not be on denying or restricting compensation but on preventing mistreatment occurring.

"The only way to guarantee that prisoners are not compensated for wrongful treatment is for it not to occur. The State has a duty to protect the rights of people who are detained by providing safe conditions of detention."

"The legitimate concerns of victims are in fact not adequately dealt with by this legislation. Such an approach denies many victims any compensation. Compensation for a victim should not be dependant on the behaviour and treatment of the perpetrator in prison."

"The mistreatment of inmates within the prison system is not justified by the crime they have committed - no matter how heinous. The sentence they are handed down is their punishment and prison authorities cannot take punishment into their own hands."

The Commission will make an in-depth submission on the Bill when it goes through the select committee process.


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